Spring is Here Russ Leonard 4-18-16
After a very mild winter and a very cold start to Spring, it is once again time to start the projects around the house. Retirement changes everything about house projects. When I was working most projects were viewed as chores that were taking up my valuable free time. I actually enjoy my time working in the yard, cutting grass, etc. I now have seven days per week to schedule whatever I want to do. There is no need to try to rush and finish, I no longer have to go off to work for another week, hoping the weather will be okay the following weekend so I can finish what I started. There is not a single day that goes by, that I don't think how fortunate I am to be in my current position.
With my wife now retired we plan to do some local travel by car to surrounding states. We do not know when. We will go when the weather looks good and we feel like it. Just this morning my brother-in-law called and asked if we wanted to drive down to Ocean City , Maryland for a few days to join both him and my sister at the beach. In this case we already had some plans and appointments scheduled, so we had to decline. If not, I would not be writing this right now.
Retirement is like being unchained from a routine that was required, work. I enjoy photography and have recently been doing more night photography. One day this past week my wife and I got up at 2:00AM and drove one hour to a darker location to take some Milky Way photos. That doesn't happen when you work. The next morning I got up at 1:30 AM and set up 2 of my telescopes out front. I stayed out until 5:00AM. I then started my normal workout schedule. I did take a nap in the afternoon. Life has changed. Work has been replaced by fun!
About to Enter a New Phase of Retirement. Russ Leonard 10-4-15
After months of trying I have finally succeeded in convincing my wife, Marilyn, to retire. She has been working part time for the last 10 years in retail. Her work schedule varies and changes every week. She will finally have a normal schedule called "Retirement". This will be her last month of work.
She does not have as many hobbies or interests as myself and is concerned that she will be bored. I am encouraging her to try new things. She loves to spend time in the yard and garden. She loves her flowers. Next spring we will have our first vegetable garden in over 30 years. That will be her project. I have offered to make her a greenhouse out back if she would like to start her planting earlier. Before that she has to make it through the winter. I love the winter and associated outdoor activities. She does not share my enthusiasm. We will see what happens.
One thing she is planning on doing is starting a regular exercise and walking schedule to improve her overall fitness level. Speaking of walking, I still have not missed a single day of walking or hiking since I retired 15 months ago. If I can keep the streak alive until 11-11-15 it will be 500 consecutive days. I bought a mountain bike two months ago and have added a daily ride, weather permitting, to my routine. Hopefully I can go from biking to snow shoeing without much downtime. We will see if the weather cooperates.
I am very excited about my wife's retirement. So far I have had no luck in talking her into a camper of some sort. I have not given up on that. Overall, I am very happy, enjoying good health and having a lot of fun. I spent a little money on my photography and astronomy hobbies and I think I am slowly turning into some type of astro-photo-computer nerd. And I like it!
Closing Out 2015 Russ Leonard 12-17-15
It has been a great year! The reason is simple, good health. With my wife, the term good is relative due to her many bouts with Cancer. We are both happy. Marilyn has been retired for 6 weeks and her initial transition has been good. We are getting along great so she is not sick of me yet. Hopefully that trend will continue.
With Marilyn not working, the only income that we currently have is my $14,000.00 pension. Marilyn will start collecting Social Security late next year. Obviously we can not live on $14,000.00, so we are tapping some savings. In 2015 we will only spend about $32,000.00 in total. Our expenses have actually dropped and our basic expenses are only about $2300.00 per month. A little travel and toys have made up the difference.
I actually enjoy spending some of our savings to fund our early retirement. When you are in the habit of stashing it away for years, you do not know how you will react when it is time to use it. I put it there as part of a long term plan. Now that long term plan is a reality. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I move funds from savings and investments to fund our retirement. I am pretty good at keeping track of expenses. I have laid out a new plan that probably goes out farther than we will. As long as we are able to purchase health care and barring a total worldwide economic collapse, we are set for life. Being able to say that is a great feeling. I wish you could see the smile on my face right now,
The Milky Way over our club observatory in Northwest, Ct. We make the best of our light polluted area. Note the sky glow in the bottom of the photo.
Retirement, The First 500 days Russ Leonard 11-11-15
To sum it up, better than I ever could have imagined. My wife, Marilyn just retired on 10-31-15. I continue to stay very busy with projects around the house, my hobbies and some local travel. I am very happy and content. I do not want to become complacent. I have definitely mellowed out and I am far more relaxed. This has had some negative affects on my exercise routine. Read my latest post in the Staying Healthy section for more on that. I recently joined an Astronomy Club. This club is very active in the area of public outreach. Many members go to local schools to share their knowledge and the club puts on 11 star parties each year in which the public is invited. They are also active with many of the local scouting groups. I am sure I will enjoy my involvement in the club activities. I completed my 500th consecutive walk or hike this morning. Forty degrees, windy with rain, but I did not care. It was a symbolic milestone for me. it represents the freedom to do what I want. I hope my wife's transition into retirement is as smooth as mine was.
My Biggest Challenge Russ Leonard 8-6-16
It would be too easy to fall into a routine, fail to challenge yourself, get lazy or just be bored. Those things have not been an issue for me. I am healthy, happy and very busy. My biggest challenge is to fully appreciate it on a regular basis. Sometimes I find myself complaining or griping about some small insignificant things. When I catch myself doing this, I remind myself how fortunate I am to be in my current situation and how hard I worked to get here. A perfect example of this happened a few weeks ago.
I had been busy in the morning, so it was early afternoon when I finally had time for my bike ride. It was a windy day with a strong cold front approaching from the northwest. There was a high wind warning issued for late afternoon. On my outward ride, I was battling a strong headwind. That was okay because it would be a nice tailwind on the way home. Just before I was to turn around the winds calmed, then suddenly shifted almost 180 degrees. The front was passing and now instead of a nice tailwind, I was riding into a 30MPH headwind with stronger gusts. I was not happy. I was cursing my bad timing and mother nature. Then I stopped to think about it for a moment. It was the middle of the workweek for most people and I was riding a bike. I was not running around in work trying to ship something early because of someone in Marketing trying to be a hero. Or worse yet, I could have been in some corporate mandated training for 8 hours which only served to provide a check in a box for HR. The 30+ MPH headwind was looking better every minute. I admit, when I got to the one steep hill, which was dead into the wind, I still might have mumbled a few complaints. It had become a challenge to even keep forward progress but I was now enjoying every second of it. I could have used a minus 10 gear but my rarely used first gear did the job. The ride home definitely beat me up a little. After putting everything in it's proper perspective, It was a great afternoon!
Two Year Update!Russ Leonard 6-8-16
In less than 3 weeks time I will have been retired for 2 years. It is hard to believe how fast the last 2 years have gone by. So how has this great experiment of early retirement gone? First, it is not really an experiment. It was planned for years and many hours of calculations were involved before I made this very serious decision. Let's break down my experience so far into three categories, Health, Social and Financial.
Of the three, Health is by far the most important. Other than about 3 days this past winter, when my body could not decide if it was getting a cold or not, I have felt great. I still have not missed a single day of walking or hiking since I retired. My overall level of fitness is about the same as it was two years ago. I would say my overall cardio endurance is down slightly but I have recently regained a little more strength and size. The first year my weight had dropped a few pounds but I have gained it back in the last 3 months. My commitment to my health and fitness remains high. My naturally competitive mode has been replaced by a more laid back attitude. I struggled somewhat with this for a while but have now totally embraced it.
The Social scene is where the most drastic changes have occurred. These changes were expected and I am fine with the way things have worked out. I have only remained in close contact with a few former co-workers. This is by choice. My socialscene rarely involved my co-workers over the years. On occasion I meet one of my former co-workers for lunch. We ate lunch together for many years at work. Since I workout at home and no longer go to a gym, my social contacts with many of my gym friends have ended. This was expected. Out of sight = out of mind. I have made several new friends with my involvement with the astronomy club that I joined. Hanging out with people that have a common interest or passion is great. I have evolved from a gym rat to an astro nerd. I see and talk to my neighbors more than I ever did. Many of them are retired as well but most are more than 10 years older than I am. The bottom line is that socially, I am fine.
Okay , so what about the money. The Financial side of early retirement is certainly the scariest part and requires the most preparation. The biggest surprise so far is that there have not been any surprises. I put plenty of money aside for the unexpected. So far I have not needed to use any. This string of good luck will certainly end at some point, but for now I will just appreciate it and move on. Our medical costs have been much lower than expected. Obviously good health requires less medical expense. That can change at any minute and the appropriate funds have been allocated for such occasions. I did an a very detailed analysis of our spending prior to retirement. That is an absolute must for anyone planning to retire early. If you do not have a 100% accurate picture of your spending habits prior to retirement, you are taking a big gamble with your future. After two years we are ahead of plan financially.
Overall, life is good. I remain very active. I still lift weights 6 or 7 days a week, walk, hike or snowshoe every day. (this past winter was not a good snowshoe winter), ride my mountain bike several days a week and we recently started some kayaking. I bought a very large two person inflatable kayak. It paddles more like a barge but is a lot of fun. I am active with my astronomy club and now that the weather is good, I am doing a lot of chores around the house. Maybe this coming winter I will get a part time job. A little mad money for toys would be nice but I am not sure if I can find the time for a part time job. Then again, maybe this coming winter I won't get a part time job.
Never Too Old to Learn Russ Leonard 8-31-15
I have enjoyed hiking and walking most of my life. Prior to retirement 14 months ago, I typically would go for a hike or walk on Sunday mornings. I retired on a Friday and went for a walk 2 days later on Sunday and I have not missed a day since.
I have completed many courses in nutrition, anatomy, personal training and related fields in the last five years. I have learned a lot and also verified many of the things that I have been doing for many years. I learned one thing in particular that surprised me, I Didn't Know How To Walk Correctly. Now after 14 months and almost two thousand miles of walking and hiking I know how to walk!
While I was studying a section of the ACE Personal Trainer Program on posture, body alignment and mobility, it occurred to me that I didn't know how to walk. I never thought about it before. So what was I doing wrong? Pretty much everything. My head was too far forward, My left shoulder was ahead or my right, My shoulders were not aligned with my hips. I walked on the outside of my feet (supinated), especially my right foot. I did not have enough arm swing, etc. I have no idea how long I had been walking like that. I probably developed bad habits over the years, especially while compensating for injuries. I am thinking I probably walked a little funny even when I was a little kid because my childhood nickname was "Penguin".
Breaking bad habits, 57 years in the making is not easy. I still do not walk perfectly. My right foot is still slightly supinated but 90% better than it was. All of my other faults have been corrected. I have reprogrammed my body to walk correctly without thinking about it. It has taken over a year. You might be thinking,"Why Bother". It is simple. I am in this for the long haul. I train for Life. Good form and posture generates good results and minimizes injuries.
When I was 52 years old I walked 67 miles nonstop in a Charity event. The first 60 were cake. The last seven almost killed me. I wish I knew then what I know now. The following day I could barely walk. I am certain that the results would be better today at 58 years old. Mostly because I am smart enough not to try that again! And of course because I now know how to walk. This "Old Dog" loves to learn new tricks.
A Year's Worth of Comments Russ Leonard 8-3-15
One of the amazing things about early retirement has been the wide range of comments that I have received over the past year. The most common reaction was disbelief followed by "You are too young" and "Why". When I first told a few of my co-workers, ( you only need to tell a few, word spreads fast), the reactions varied. Some were genuinely happy for me. Some thought I was crazy. Some worried about losing me as a resource. Some seemed mad at me. I did give the company 3 months notice. That was for them, not me. During the months leading up to my last day, many of my co-workers wanted to know how I could retire so early. Fifty-seven is early but certainly not unheard of. There have been plenty of people retire much earlier than 57. My general response was that it is very easy when you live most of your entire adult life well below your means. My last day of work was awesome. My co-workers had 3 months to get over their initial reactions and were genuinely happy for me. All their words were kind and they were very generous with the parting gifts that I received.
My family and close friends were not surprised. I had talked about retiring early on many occasions during the previous few years. They were supportive. My mother died 3 weeks before I retired. She was initially a little surprised when I told her and she was concerned if I had enough money to stop working. When I told her how much we had managed to save, she was both shocked and relieved. She was almost 90 years old and $100.00 was a lot of money in her mind. My Dad died in 2008. No one would have been happier for me or prouder than him. Before he died I assured him that I would retire before 60 years of age. He had retired at 62 and had 20 real good years before his health started to fade.
My wife, Marilyn had been encouraging me to retire for at least a year before I finally fell off the fence and made a decision. She just kept saying ,"Just quit your job and retire". She knew that I was not happy at work and wanted more out of life than the daily grind. She was and still is very happy for me and supportive. As it turned out she had been giving me the best advice all along.
Some of the most interesting comments that I have received have been from people that I barely know or do not know at all. I ran into someone in a local grocery store that I had sold a car to about 12 years ago. He lives about a half a mile from me and I walk past his house every morning when I take my daily walk. He was relieved when I told him that I had retired. He thought I might have lost my job and become a homeless person wandering the streets. I assured him that everything was fine and I walk every day to the center of town and back for exercise. I get the occasional, "did you win the lotto or something". I have been told more than once that I look too young to be a retired person. I guess retired people are supposed to have a certain look. This retired person has been working out and eating good for the last 40 years which also might help just a little.
One recurring comment that I keep getting ( from working people) is, "You are going to get bored". That may happen some day but I doubt it. I just finished building a roof over part of my deck and I am considering building a Dutch oven out of brick or stone in the back yard. I have lots of projects lined up.
I am sure that I will keep getting some interesting comments for a while. They will probably stop when I reach "normal" retirement age. The best comment that I got was from a friend that I have known for over 50 years. Just two words, "Nice Job". Thanks Mark.
Time to Change Course Russ Leonard 7-30-15
A lot has happened in the last 13 months since I retired. Almost all of it has been very good. First and most importantly my health and the health of my wife, Marilyn has been excellent. Hopefully that stretch of good fortune will continue. Because of our good health we are way ahead of plan financially. Our basic living expenses are right on target. If anything we are probably not spending enough money. Since I walked away from a good paying, secure job it is easy to understand why I have been tentative with my spending. Now that I have 13 months of history behind me, I can loosen up a little and spend a few more dollars. We will probably go on a few local trips and I am starting to plan a major Western trip for next year.
If you have read some of my other articles on this site you may have noticed a recurring theme of someday moving out west to a small home base and travelling in an RV. That is why this is titled "Time to Change Course". Marilyn has said that is never going to happen. Her emotional attachments to our home are too great. You may think that this was a major disappointment for me. You would be wrong. Making her happy is my highest priority. I adapt well. It was never a sure thing and I am glad she made a firm decision. The RV travel still may happen, we just won't be based in Colorado or Utah. Maybe the small energy efficient cabin I was designing could be built in Maine as a vacation home. Time will tell.
So that is the big change. I have a few other things going on. I am about to ramp up my workouts a little. I hope to do it without crossing the line and suffering any type of injury. Unfortunately the line keeps moving as you get older and sometimes you do not know that you already crossed it. I am thinking about buying a bicycle. I live right near a Rails to Trails path that is mostly complete. There are some small gaps in it but when it is complete it will be 80 miles long and very scenic. I still have no desire to work. I am starting to realize that without any financial motivation and having plenty to do, work seems like it would be a waste of my time. We will see if I change my mind as time progresses.
Speaking of work, I do not miss it at all. I was happy to see that two of my former co-workers recently retired at 60 years of age. I may have started a trend in early retirements. I also now realize that I definitely could have retired one year earlier at 56 instead of 57. If healthcare had been available, I probably could have actually retired a few years earlier than that but I am now certain that I picked the right time. I am a very confident person, but I would be lying if I said that I was 100% sure that I was making the right choice 13 months ago. The risk was small and as I have said it was a calculated risk. It is a very hot, humid day. I am starting to look forward to some Winter camping.
Leaving the Workplace Russ Leonard 4-16-15
For my latest comments on retirement (8-6-16) and how I am doing since I left the workplace, please scroll to the bottom.
How Do You know When It Is Time To Retire? Russ Leonard 5-4-15
My long term goal was to retire at 59. I originally picked 59 because my wife is 3 years older and would be eligible to collect social security benefits at 62 if she decided to do so. I have always placed great value on my time as well. I retired at 57, so what changed? There were no financial incentives to retire earlier. If anything retiring those 2 years earlier made me rethink all my long term financial plans and make significant adjustments.
In January of 2014 I made a decision to retire by the end of the year. If my job was the greatest on earth I still would have retired by 12-31-14. I have nothing but nice things to say about how my employer treated me. That does not mean I liked going to work. Changes in people, ideology and many other things brought me to the conclusion that I no longer fit into the organization. That does not mean that they were wrong, it just means that I needed to leave. So for that reason I pulled in my date to 6-27-14. That was my last day at work.
I needed to leave for one big reason that had nothing to do with finances or work, my wife. Marilyn is a 4 time cancer survivor. She currently is cancer free with issues relating more to her treatments than any of her previous cancers. Does Marilyn have a normal life expectancy with all she has been through, no. She may outlive me by 30 years but if you look at reality she probably won't. On my last day at work, the Manufacturing people had a small party for myself and one other co-worker who was retiring. When it was my turn to speak, I discussed my wife's previous health issues and her current state of health. I told them that if Marilyn was to die when I was 65 years old and still working, it would be the type of regret that would make life difficult, knowing that I could have spent much more time with her over the previous 8 years.
Being able to face your own mortality and that of the ones that are close to you is critical to retiring early. I know a lot of immortals who are going to do all these great things in their 70's and 80's. Maybe they will. I hope they do but doubt if they will get the chance. One of the greatest disservices that the financial planning industry does, is treat everyone like they are going to live until they are in their 90's. They scare many people into retiring later than necessary. In many cases they do this without knowing anything about your health and your own families average age of mortality. Let's face some facts. If both your parents died before 70 and you are obese with diabetes, a heart condition and high blood pressure, 80 or 90 is probably not in your future. Thinking about and accepting the reality of death can actually lead to a more enjoyable life. Sounds strange but think about it.
So what are your good years, when you can do pretty much what you want and really enjoy life? They probably start sometime after you finish school and are settled into the working environment. This number keeps going up but for sake of argument let's say the good years start at 28. Also for the sake of argument let's say they end at 68. I know each case will be different. There are exceptions to every rule. That is a 40 year spread that I would consider the average prime of your life. If you retire at 65 you now have 3 prime years remaining. You may be alive for 20 more but are you living? That is 7.5% of the prime of your life waiting for you in retirement. Now if you can find a way to retire at 60 you will have 8 prime years left or 20%.
When you get to be in your late 50's or early 60's there is a major change that occurs in your life. Many people that you know including your parents, friends and other relatives begin to die. That is just the normal progression of life. If you knew for certain that you had 2 years to live and could afford to retire, would you? Some would't but many would. I have no idea how long I am going to be around but I can guarantee you that I am going to make the most of it.
Hit the Reset, You Are Retired! Russ Leonard 4-22-15
You did it. You left work, now what? If you are thinking that, you may already have missed out on some planning that should have been done. Don't worry, you have time to catch up because you are retired.
There are thousands of articles you can read on how to prepare financially for retirement and beyond. Financial preparations are essential and hopefully you were able to get good advice and were successful. Getting good advice is not as easy as it should be. The investor and saver are often just a tool for the enrichment of others. Check out the web site caniretireyet.com . The author and owner of this site is Darrow Kirkpatrick. It is a very interesting and entertaining web site that offers practical, common sense solutions to many of the financial questions about preparing for retirement and beyond. I do not know Darrow personally but have had the pleasure of corresponding with him on several occasions.
The transition from work to retirement often does not get the attention it deserves. Retirement is the goal of millions but how many really know what they will do in retirement and how well they will adapt. Whether you know it or not, health and happiness are your goals in retired life. The second to last thing you want to do is to regret retirement. Obviously that makes dying before you get a chance, number one. I had to throw that in for all you immortals out there that are going to retire at 70, to max out your benefits. As I write this I have been retired for almost 300 days. Many of the things that I thought I would be doing in retirement have indeed happened. Some have not. So the first lesson is, be flexible. You are making the rules now. I decided that I would not do any sort of part time work for the first 6 months of retirement. It is now 9 months and I have not worked at all. The reason is simple. I am having too much fun. Why ruin it! I am sure that some day in the future I will do some sort of part time work. Since I have no financial motivation to work it will have to be something that is very worthy of my valuable retirement time. It will most likely be fitness related.
For me, the transition from work to retirement seemed like a natural progression in life. I am sure that is because I did significant planning with regards to my sudden windfall of time. I also gave considerable thought to the changes that would occur on a social level.
When you work full time, you spend far more time with your co-workers than you do with your family. Some of these individuals may also be your friends that you see outside of the work place. By design, I had very few friends from the work place. I was a supervisor for years and I did not believe it was a good idea to hang out with my workers.
I did have many co-workers that I considered work friends. I do miss seeing some of them. Did I think that they would stay in touch, of course not. Most of your casual work friends will never call you and you will never see them again. Have you stayed in touch with all your former co-workers that retired before you? If you saw your co-workers outside of the workplace before retirement you will continue to do so after retirement. If not, don't expect to hear from them.
I happen to be the type of person that can enjoy giving a presentation in front of 100 people and equally enjoy sitting on a mountain top all alone at sunrise. I know that makes me different. I have been called many versions of "different" over the years. Retirement gives you the opportunity to have social interaction at any level that you choose. You can be a hermit or a social butterfly. It is your choice because you make the rules.
My last day on the job, 6-27-14. When I walked out that day I felt like a 5 year old on Christmas Eve. I could not wait for tomorrow and the start of my retirement.
Leaving the workplace, whether it be a job you have had for many years or a business you have owned and run is no simple task. Along with marriage and buying a home it is a major life decision. For many, retirement and especially early retirement may not be the right choice. Careful planning is required and tough choices must be made.
Many of my co-workers, friends and even family could not understand why I wanted to retire at 57. After all, I was leaving a secure, well paying job with great benefits and 6 weeks of vacation. I explained it in two simple ways. Being at work would not make my top 100 list of things I like to do and most importantly, I value my time far more than money. My Father used to tell me "You can always make another buck but you can't get one second of your life back". I must have listened because I left more than a million dollars worth of wages and benefits on the table by not working until full retirement age.
There are many things to consider before leaping into retirement. I simplified it as best I could. I am not here to give financial advice but at a minimum you need to know how much money you have, how much money you think you will have in the future and how much money you will really spend in retirement. The how much money you will really spend in retirement, may be the most difficult to answer.
Most people are really bad at estimating two things, how many calories they consume and how much they really spend. If you do not know what you currently spend, how could you possibly know what you will spend in the future? For many months prior to my retirement I kept track of every single cent that we spent. It took great discipline and was not fun but it was worth the time spent. It gave me an accurate picture of our spending habits and identified areas of potential reductions in our budget. I want to emphasize potential reductions in your budget. Until you have demonstrated the ability to implement cost savings over an extended period of time, it would not be wise to count them. It would be like buying a new wardrobe in December because of all the weight your are planning to lose during the following year.
After calculating a budget that would provide for a Happy Lifestyle, I looked into establishing two piles of liquid after tax money for the future. One being for unexpected large ticket items like new appliances, a new roof or furnace. The other to cover the great unknown, Healthcare.
If not for the Affordable Health Care Act , Obamacare, I could not have retired early. It was never the affordability of the coverage. It was always about being able to shop for Healthcare without worrying about being denied or at a later date thrown out. To me, the pre-existing condition clause is Obamacare. There are many aspects of Obamacare that I do not agree with, but I am grateful for it.
About that pile of money for Healthcare, it is a big pile. My wife is currently 60 years old and I am 57. That is 5 years until Medicare for her and 8 for me. That is a long time to pay for all of your own Healthcare. Even though our premiums are not expensive we have good size deductibles and a fairly large out of pocket max. We have put aside about $14,000.00 per year for the next 5 years and $12,000.00 for each of the three years after that. In addition we have put aside $15,000.00 for potential premium increases. That totals to $121,000.00. It hurts to even type that number. We have planned for the worse. I hope we do not even spend half of that, but it has to be there if we need it. It needs to be after tax money so it does not show as income. If it shows as income your healthcare tax credit disappears quickly. Obamacare tax credits are based on income not assets. Score a rare one for the middle class.
So we have our large ticket item fund, Healthcare fund and we know what our normal expenses are and what they should be in the future. When our Social Security kicks in, that along with my $14,000.00 yearly pension will provide us with more than enough to live on. Yes it is only $14,000.00 but pensions in the private sector have all but disappeared. My wife still works a little part time and I always could work a little if I have to. We may never even need to touch our 401K's. Could things change or go wrong? Of course they could and probably will. There is always some risk or uncertainty. For me, early retirement is a great reward that is worth a little calculated risk. Russ Leonard 4-16-15
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